UNTITLED (by Daniel Ray Lane)

(Although this story isn't finished yet, I wanted to give everyone the chance to see Dan's talent as a storywriter.)

CHAPTER I - A QUIET MOMENT

It was a breezy night. With a glorious fiery dusk the sun had descended into the west and now the stars shone clear above. One by one they peeked out from veils of towering clouds until the night sky glowed coldly with their silent glimmer. Daniel watched them alone from the forecastle as the waves sighed beneath him. He doubted that anyone else had seen the sunset or even cared to. Things had calmed considerably after the dayís events and Captain Truxton had finally retired below. Exhausted, most of the crew too lay below by nightfall. Only Danielís watch remained on deck.

Constellation cut a swift, northerly course through light seas and the evening rains that had so deeply emboldened the sunís westering now lay far to the east. There was a good wind in the sails and unless it shifted or a gale blew in, the watch should be a quiet one. George Blackís ship burned far astern of Constellation, fired and left to sink of her own accord. She had been too badly damaged to take as a prize and had mysteriously left only one survivor, George Black himself. The pirate was locked away safely below and placed under a close guard, with his compatriot Morgan close beside him sharing the same brig. Neither miscreant would cause trouble this eve, not unless they could break the shackles and balls which now adorned their ankles.

The day had left its mark on the ship. Lanterns glowed fore and aft where the carpenter still labored at mending the damage. But worse had been done to Prince Eric, dealt by Morganís sword. He was below now with the princess, resting in the captainís cabin, graciously vacated for them by Truxton.

The lantern on the mast glowed in the breeze, and as he looked aloft, Daniel saw Sirius shimmering not too far above the eastern horizon. It was time to shoot the evening stars. Walking to the binnacle, He checked the smartness of the watch. It was obvious in the lantern light that the brass had been polished and the chart table neatly arranged. Smiling approvingly, he checked the compass and stepped closer to the wheel.

"And how are we doing this evening Mr. Stiles?" he asked.

The old mate smiled back, chewing his pipe "Well, sir, well. A fine night it be to be out here wi' th' wind and sea, wouldn't you say?"

Smiling back, Daniel folded his arms and looked up "Aye, that it is. A good night for the stars, I think, a clear night."

Stiles looked up, then back down to the wheel "Aye, indeed. You know sir, 'tis the first chance I've had ta' speak wi' ye since the battle, but tis' a good thing taí me thaí we happened upon the young lad when we did. I do naí trust that Ďol Black George... heís a scoundrel I say."

"Aye, heís a pirate, that much is true" Daniel nodded, "but Iím not so sure heís all that bad of a fellow." He paused, "A true blackheart would have murdered the prince and done the princess far worse, but George Black did neither. In fact, from what Prince Eric says, the old goat saved the both of them from Morganís blade. Maybe he doesnít rate the gallows after all."

Stiles chewed his pipe and chuckled "Ah, sir, I can see I raised a fine lad into a good officer. A right good gentleman too, I think. But beware oí that soft heart Iím telling yaí. Itíll be be end Ďo ye, jusí as thí good capín said."

Daniel laughed. He'd gone to sea at the young age of fourteen after his father had been killed, and his first ship had been a frigate. He'd been a midshipman on the Constellation just five years ago and old Stiles had taken him under his wing, showing him the ropes. Stiles had taught him what it meant to be a sailor, but Preble had taught him what it meant to be an officer.

Captain Edward Preble was a fiery man with a sharp temper and a fondness for the lash, neither of which the young lieutenant shared; but he was also a man of tremendous courage and skill, and Daniel had inherited these two traits from his former captain. He was eager for adventure but sparing with the cat, and the men loved him for it. Daniel was a rarity for his day, and Stiles was reminding him of that very fact.

Stiles must have been in his sixties by that evening and he had seen a lot. The patch over his left eye was a gift from the British back in the War of Independence and the old man hadn't forgotten it. As mate, he was one of the sturdiest sailors left in the fleet, a true fellow of the sort you wanted on watch when an ill wind blew. But he was the exception now rather than the rule. The days of Adams and the Federalist Navy had ended and Jefferson had been intent on breaking up the fleet. If it hadn't been for the French War and then these accursed pirates, there would be no navy at all. Hopefully, the new 74's would breathe new life into the service before the Barbary States could strangle Americaís European trade.

Sighing, Daniel looked back up at the night sky. Smiling approvingly at Stiles, he stepped over to the plotting table and spread out a chart of the West Indies. The compass showed Constellation true on her course as best he reckoned, and it was time for the sights. Opening the elaborate wooden case, he took out a black sextant and adjusted it carefully. Sighting Sirius he took down his measurement in the log, then shot two other good stars in the same fashion. Laying down the sextant, he began his calculation and was soon deep in concentration.

The breeze brushed at his neck as he thought. And a gentle fragrance drifted in the airs about him. Out of the corner of his right eye he noticed a movement beside and startled, spun about.

"Oh!" the girl jumped back, surprised by Gray's turn. It was Princess Ariel, Eric's wife. "I'm sorry..." she stammered, obviously embarrassed.

"No, no...really it is quite all right," he stammered, "and besides, I am the one who should apologize, for frightening you, I mean, milady. I thought that you and the Prince must have retired for the evening, it's been a trying day for you both."

Ariel smiled "Well...Eric and I thought that we could watch the stars tonight, it's so...peaceful. I didnít want to leave him, but he said he'll be up in a little while. What were you...doing?" she asked sheepishly.

Looking at the sextant and the table, the girlís eyes suddenly lit up when she saw the chart Daniel had been plotting. "Ohhh!...It's a map! Its so...so...beautiful!" she exclaimed as she clasped her hands together in delight and looked back at Daniel.

Daniel grinned, "You like maps? How unusual!" he said as he puzzled over Ariel's delight.

Ariel nodded her head excitedly and looked back at the chart. Her eyes were bright and full of wonder. Daniel remembered what President Adams had told him about Eric's wife when he sent the young Lieutenant to St. Kitts three years ago. She was a most unusual young lady, and Adams had a special interest in her welfare. He seemed to have an almost fatherly concern for the girl.

Yes, she was special, not just a Princess. Everything about her suggested the newness and sweet, almost childlike naivetť Adams had warned him of. Even the uncertain but elegant way she walked. Everything was new. She was an innocent in a troubled world. Fortunately, great effort had been expended to ensure that such troubles passed Ariel by.

"Well," Daniel continued, "it really not a map, per se."

Ariel looked at him, "Itís not?"

He smiled "No, it is actually a chart, you see...There is a difference, of course."

"There is?" Arielís eyes were wide, filled with curiosity.

He smiled "Oh yes, a chart is a precise mathematical instrument, a map is a rather common thing in comparison."

"So you mean itís a...special...map." she suggested.

Grinning, he stared back at the precocious girl and nodded his head "Yes, Princess...a very special map. We use it to find the location of our ship while at sea."

"How!?" Ariel exclaimed with delight. She looked closely at the sextant and the dividers on the chart, wondering at all of the line and scribbles Daniel had made. She saw absolutely no sense in them. This was certainly like no map she had ever seen, not even since she and Eric had married.

"Well, we use this sextant to fix the positions of the stars and then translate those positions into lines of position using mathematical formulas from this book." He stated, pointing to a brown book beside the sextant.

Ariel stared back at him with a blank look, trying to understand. It was just beyond her. Navigating by the stars had long been a forgotten art in Atlantica.

Seeing that he was losing her, Daniel changed his approach. "Here, let me show you." Taking the sextant, he placed it in her hands. With delight she looked at the instrument from every side, looking back to Daniel with a shy smile. Taking her hands gently, he held the eyepiece to her eye and adjusted it until she could see a star. But the "star" he chose wasnít a star at all, it was Jupiter.

Ariel gasped "Oh my gosh! Itís so...big, is this a..." thinking back, she remembered what Archimedes had called human devices like this, "tel...e...scope?" she beamed, looking up at Daniel.

"Yes, Yes, indeed it is, of a special sort." He replied.

Ariel sighed, everything she encountered wasnít what she thought. It was confusing, even after three years. Everything was special. She turned and smiled, wondering where Eric as.

In fact, Eric was below with the shipís surgeon. Although they were actually minor, the slashes on his right arm had required some stitches and a bandage. He wore his arm in a sling which the surgeon was now dressing. Wanting to spare Ariel the sight of his blood, heíd kissed her and asked her to wait for him above. A hot tub had been provided for their comfort and cleanliness, and after Ariel had finished with her bath, she reluctantly retired to the main deck.

After Ariel had left, Eric bathed and was dressing when Dr. Aames called on him. The surgeon had returned to check on the prince at the captainís request and Eric was secretly grateful for the attention. His ribs had felt as though they were on fire since the duel and the bandages beneath his shirt helped to ease the pain ever so slightly. Finishing with the sling, Aames inspected Ericís ribs, noting with concern the bruises that Eric reluctantly revealed. There was blood beneath the skin, not much, but at least one of the princeís ribs appeared broken. Eric grimaced as the physician inspected him. He was certain that one of his ribs was broken, but he couldnít let Ariel know. It would heal in time and it could have been worse. Morgan had landed a solid blow on his lower torso, and only thanks to a last minute parry had the stroke landed flat. It was a good thing, because Eric would have otherwise been dead.

"Well, your grace, now only time and rest can heal you any further, and I advise you give yourself plenty of both. Youíre very fortunate, you know."

"Yes, I know...In many ways." Eric replied, "Thank you for your help, it feels much better already."

The old surgeon smiled slyly, "Iíll bet that it does. You take good care of yourself now."

Eric nodded. Dr. Aames left the cabin and Eric stood, looking out to the open sea astern of the ship. Hesitantly, he slipped his shirt over his wounded torso and carefully laid his right arm in its sling. It was a painful experience, but at least he and Ariel had something clean to wear after the filth and stench of the battle. Somehow, Truxton had found a breathtaking blue Spanish gown for Ariel, and while Eric couldnít be certain, he knew that it must have come from the treasure chests on George Blackís ship. Painfully, he worked his way to the main deck, anxious to find his wife.

When he emerged, he saw that it was dark and windy. Constellationís sails were full with the wind and she was obviously proceeding north at a handsome speed. It wouldnít be long until he and Ariel were home safely with their daughter and Ariel would have something other than him to worry about. Looking about the deck, Eric espied Daniel on the quarterdeck, and not far from him stood Ariel, looking curiously at a sextant. They were talking about charts. Eric couldnít help but wonder at how beautiful Ariel was in the dim light, how the wind caught her hair and how the lantern light played softly across her face. Nor could he forget that he might have lost her today had George Black not intervened in his battle with Morgan. Morgan had been too much for him and Eric knew it. For the first time since his marriage the prince felt unsure about himself and he didnít want Ariel to know. He wasnít certain that he could protect his wife and daughter any longer.

As he slipped up quietly behind his wife, Eric saw Ariel sigh. Her gaze strayed from the stars to the sea. Just for a moment, he saw what could only be a brief but intense look of longing in her eyes and he stopped where he stood. Oblivious to the fact that Arielís attention had drifted away, Daniel continued talking about the stars while Arielís mind wandered beneath the waves.

Quite by chance, Ariel turned then and saw him standing behind her, "Eric!" she said softly but with discernible excitement. Stepping towards him, the girl looked up at him intently, reaching out to touch his arm. Eric took her left hand in his. They stared deeply into each otherís eyes and kissed.

Opening his eyes, Eric saw Ariel looking intently at him, concern in her eyes and her right hand gently touching his wounded arm. "Does it still...hurt?" Eric shook his head gently, he didnít want to lie to Ariel, but it would only upset her if she knew that he was in pain. What concerned him more was the longing he had seen in her seaward glance. What could it have meant? Was she homesick for her father and sisters?

"Eric,...whatís wrong?" she asked softly.

"Nothing sweetheart, Iím fine, the painís almost gone now."

"Oh Eric, thatís wonderful!" she beamed happily.

Eric nodded and smiled "You look beautiful tonight, that dress really becomes you."

Ariel blushed, smiling up at him "You always say that. I feel embarrassed."

"Well, you shouldnít," Eric replied softly "because you are beautiful."

Ariel smiled gently and laid her head on Ericís chest as they softly embraced one another. Eric saw Daniel leaning on the chart table looking back at the two. He was smiling as he finished his calculations. Eric rocked his wife in the breeze as the ship swayed gently beneath their feet. He felt her tremble ever so slightly in his arms. It was worth the pain to hold Ariel like this. It would be more deeply painful not to. He would never leave her again.

"Your Grace," Daniel started, "We should see the shores of your kingdom near the break of day tomorrow. The winds and skies are fair enough to promise a swift journey. "

Eric nodded and looked down to Ariel, "Hear that sweetheart? Weíll be home tomorrow morning."

Ariel nodded, then looked up at him longingly.

"Would you like to walk around for a little while?"

The girl nodded again, her eyes never leaving his. Ariel simply wanted to be with Eric. She was upset and still frightened by the violence of the dayís battles; afraid, not just for Eric, but for Melody and everyone else in the kingdom. While her curiosity in Danielís odd devices and maps had distracted her for a little while, being with Eric brought all of the dayís horrible memories back. He had almost died that day. Ariel struggled to choke back tears. Seeing her distress, Eric began to rock her slowly again as she finally cried softly against his chest.

"Itís all right, itís all right, sweetheart." Eric stood there with her in his arms. "Daniel, there isnít any problem if I take Ariel up forward, is there?"

"No your grace, none at all. Do have a care for the deck rigging, it can be very dark on the forecastle."

The prince nodded. Eric led Ariel up the deck leaving the chart table and the light of the quarterdeck behind. Daniel was right, there was rigging laid out and the carpenter was working near the fore mast. The two finally came to the forecastle and it was very dark indeed. The wind whipped briskly across the bow, here but there was a good lee,...and a bench. Sitting, Eric pulled the girl into his lap and held her.

Ariel hadnít said a word as they had walked forward, but her tears were words enough. Humanity had been so wonderful for her, but first Helena and now Morgan had laid a dark shadow on her happiness. Ariel hadnít cried so deeply since her ordeal in Glowerhaven years ago. She was frightened, and there was nothing that Eric could do but hold her.

The stars were very bright overhead by then, with Sirius rising clear to the east. Despite the shooting pain in his arm and chest, Eric rocked the girl gently in his arms. Her eyes were closed, but she wasnít asleep. After a while Arielís breathing eased as her tears passed. Nestled in his arms, she clung to Eric, trying to be as close as she could to him.

"The stars are out tonight." Eric said softly, looking down at Ariel lovingly.

The girl turned her head and looked up at him curiously, her eyes wet and sad. Slowly, she looked up at the sky. "Theyíre beautiful," she whispered "I was looking at them with Daniel before you came up." She looked back at her husband, "I used to sneak away from the palace at night and swim up to the surface, just so I could look at them. Theyíre so beautiful, and theyíre so many of them. I always thought humans were lucky because they could see them any time they wanted."

Eric drew her closer to him, holding her tightly. "You know, itís a funny thing, but I donít think many people even notice the stars, they just take them for granted."

"Thatís sad,...theyíre so...lovely. Did you know that each star has a name, and that you can find where you are by looking at them with a...tel-e-scope?

Eric shook his head and laughed gently "Now where did you find that out, from Daniel?"

Ariel nodded innocently.

"I want you to see something," he paused, then taking her up in his arms, Eric gently turned the girl until they were looking into the west. There far above the dark limb of the sea sat a glorious star, burning with a fiery white and yellow radiance. "Thatís our star, sweetheart, but itís not a star, itís a planet, a planet called Venus."

"It is? Whatís a...planet?"

"Well, itís sort of like a star, but it moves across the sky from night to night."

Ariel looked at him, not really understanding the significance of what he was saying. She knew the name Venus, although her people didnít use the name very often anymore, but she had never heard of planets before.

"A planet is a place like the earth, just a globe in the sky, very, very far away," he continued.

"The earthís a globe?" she asked.

Eric nodded his head.

"But it looks flat."

Thatís just because you canít see it all.

"So thatís why all those roundamajiggers had maps on them," she whispered to herself. Delighted, she smiled up at him, only to see his loving eyes looking into hers. Her smile fade as they kissed, replaced with the shy softness of her love for Eric.

"Were you,...scared?"

"Scared?" Eric replied, "You mean of Morgan? Well, not at first, but after I realized that I couldnít win...Yes,...I was scared." He glanced down.

"I thought he was going to, to...kill...you, and I couldnít do anything to stop him. Nothing worked," the girlís voice broke and Eric could see her eyes growing wet again. "It was awful," she started to cry gently.

"I know, Iím so sorry for being so stupid, and so headstrong. I should have known better and waited like I promised, but I wasnít really afraid until you were there, when I saw that look in Morganís eyes. He was going to hurt you, sweetheart.

Ariel just looked at him, a tear rolling down her cheek.

"Were you afraid? " Eric asked gently.

She nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving his.

"Oh Ariel, Iím so sorry,...Iím so, so sorry." Gently, Eric rocked his wife in his arms as she cried, until at last she slept, whereupon he gently, and with great discomfort, carried the exhausted girl to their cabin, and there laid her to sleep.


CHAPTER II - LANDFALL HOME

The sun broke over Constellationís starboard bow that morning with a breathtaking flash of green. When Eric rose he found Lieutenant Joshua Stone on the deck with Stiles replaced by a certain Mr. Humphries at the wheel. The hands were about the rigging and in the distance the beautiful green hills of his home were beckoning. There would be time for a short breakfast before the ship made landfall, but Eric debated whether to wake Ariel or else let her sleep. She was exhausted and had tossed and turned throughout the night. The girl desperately wanted to be with her daughter again, and the later Eric roused her, the less time she would miss Melody. Eric let her sleep.

As the sun climbed through the morning airs, the sky gradually faded from a deep red to the blue of day. For the first time, the young prince had a chance to admire the handsome workmanship of the ship and her rigging. She was a fine cruiser, and a swift one it seemed. He found himself slightly envying Daniel and would have given a great deal to see a ship like this in his fleet. Even the sailors looked sharp. These colonists were a strange, driven folk, determined to be the best in everything they did it seemed. Sometimes he wondered why his family had left the mainland. Of course if they hadnít, he would have never found Ariel.

"Good morning to you, your grace," called a voice. It was Danielís. Sitting up near the bowsprit, he rose as Eric approached.

"Good morning!" Eric replied, walking up to stand by his friend.

"A glorious dawn this morning, did you see it?"

Eric nodded. Hesitantly he turned towards the man, "Dan...how did you become a part of...all this?" looking at the ship about him, "I mean, when did you join their navy?"

"When I was fourteen, your grace. I was born in Boston."

"So you were an American officer during the raids?" Eric continued.

Daniel nodded, "Yes,...a passed midshipman actually."

Eric laughed, "Well,...why didnít you tell me?"

Uncomfortably, Daniel replied "Well, I donít think I could have, your grace, not at the time. There was a storm out at sea and I was washed overboard. I guess the captain thought I was dead, because he didnít double back for me. Of course I didnít drown, but the storm washed me up on your isle. Iím afraid I donít remember the details very well."

"And you didnít ask for help?"

"No, as I said, I couldnít. My government considered your kingdom to be a hostile state. I couldnít tell anyone who I was for fear of being lynched."

"Dan, you canít be serious! Hostile! Why? No one in my kingdom would have ever harmed you!"

Daniel smiled uneasily "Well I know that now, but at the time I didnít. I needed passage back north and decided the best way to obtain it was to work for it. So I did, doing what I know best, ...sailing. Thatís how we ended up serving together, your highness."

"But how could anyone have thought my kingdom was a threat? I donít understand." Eric shook his head in disbelief. "Well no one thinks that now, of course." Daniel continued, "But back seven years ago it was a different time. British merchants and men-o-war were fairly common in your waters, you know."

"Yes, I know. They still are." Nonplused, Eric smiled and shook his head slowly as he looked back at Daniel. "I hope this doesnít alter our friendship."

"I donít see how it could" replied Daniel.

"Well, you used to call me Eric and not Ďyour grace.í" Eric smiled, "Besides, I thought you Americans didnít recognize royalty."

"We donít,...Eric. But there are exceptions to every rule. You and the princess are two of them. Even radical democrats can recognize a good ruler, a king or queen, or a prince...even if we arenít cordial to the idea of monarchies in general. In fact, if all kings and queens shared your even character, I doubt that my people would have chosen the path we did. We would probably still have been loyal subjects of the British crown."

Eric stared at him, "So then, what next. Where do you go from here?"

"What? Do you mean my people or my ship?" Daniel smiled, "Well, north,...I think. Back home. In time, maybe a year, to the Mediterranean. Thereís trouble with pirates brewing over there, real pirates mind you, not the ruffians and scalawags weíve been chasing about in these waters. If thereís to be some real action, I want to be a part of it."

"What about your war? With the French,...I mean."

"Well, thatís mostly over now, I think. At least on this side of the ocean. Does the princess know?"

"No, I donít think she ever did, I kind of try to shelter Ariel from some of the uglier aspects of how we behave."

"How we behave?" Daniel repeated. "You sound as if either youíre a sudden convert to democracy or your brideís not all she seems."

Realizing his slip, Eric blanched and stared back at the Lieutenant.

Daniel smiled, "Donít worry Eric, your secretís safe with me. One of the reasons Iím here is to protect the princess,...and you. Adams saw to that before he left office. I know all there is to be known about her and her father, at least I think so.

Eric stared back in disbelief, "How?í

"President Adams, he informed me personally after I volunteered for this duty. I must say, itís been quite a pleasure. You really have a charming kingdom, and of course your wife is quite special. It didnít take me long to see what the President meant."

"Is that why youíre here now?"

"Yes. Captain Truxton seems to trust my judgment, and I do believe he is absolutely enchanted with the Princess. I think he would do anything for the two of you, Eric."

"Sail ho!" came a cry from aloft. Eric and Daniel looked up, straining to see which direction the lookout was pointing.

- Open shutters invited the fresh morningís breeze into the cabin. It played in Arielís tresses wafting them this way and that, tickling her gradually to wakefulness. Lanterns swayed gently above with the roll of the ship about her. A fitful nightís sleep had left the girl hardly rested at all, and after a while she stared sleepily at the beams above until she fully realized that she was awake. Looking askance at the soft covers, she reluctantly turned them back and stood, turning to face the sea in the cool morning airs.

A long trail of blue and white fell away astern from where Constellation had passed. As a girl, Ariel had often watched ships pass over the depths, wondering where their long white trails led them. How she had desperately wished to could go there as well! Now, all she could think of was being home with her daughter and husband. Turning, she saw her disheveled reflection staring back from a mirror. Looking away, Ariel tended to herself.

In the corner of the cabin was a generous sized tub, the girl saw tendrils of steam rising from itís basin and guessed that it had been freshly filled. She hadnít heard anyone enter or leave the room, but clearly that meant nothing since Eric had gone above while she slept. A hot bath with bubbles! One of the true delights of being human! Ariel beamed.

As it happens, anyone who chanced by the Captain Truxtonís cabin at that hour would have heard a soft and most un-officerly sigh come from the place. But nobody did. Ariel bathed and dried herself with a fluffy towel. The air was rather brisk, so she shivered a little as she brushed her hair. Looking at herself in the mirror, she reflected on the fact that dinglehoppers were really much more useful than hairbrushes, although brushes did seem to make her hair look prettier. She looked back to her wardrobe, actually just the Captainís valet, and saw draped across it a lovely shade of green. Ariel's eyes widened as she gasped in delight.

- The sail had appeared off the port quarter, a ship, maybe a two-decker under full sail and swiftly drawing in on Constellation. The men snapped to and the Captain was alerted, coming to the deck from breakfast below. Looking astern, Truxton spied the newcomer, then turned to Lieutenant Stone. "A frigate, Iíd say. She sails like a Frenchman!"

Stone shrugged as he looked through his spyglass, "Aye, that she does, but there captain! Look now! Thatís the British Naval ensign!"

Now Truxton too, hoisted his spyglass and looked on, "Aye, youíre right Mr. Stone. I wonder what he wants."

Forward amidships, Daniel and Eric were looking off the quarter, hoping to guess the Britonís intentions. So intently were the menís gazes fixed that they failed to notice a small and elegant figure walking up to them from behind.

"Eric?"

The prince turned, his eyes widening, not unlike they had when he first saw her in the dining hall of his castle many years before. Ariel stood before him in a heart stopping gown of emerald silk, with accouterments and shoes to match. Eric took her hand and drew her into a close embrace, as she looked over his shoulder.

"Eric, what is everyone staring at?" she asked innocently.

Daniel responded instead without looking back, "A ship, Princess. A British Man-O-War."

"It looks like a frigate." Eric added quietly.

"Indeed, she is, I think. And by my guess she outguns us by eight guns at least. French design I think."

Arielís face darkened at the mention of guns, from Ericís embrace she looked to the men of the ship about her, most stood by their guns with grim looks in their eyes, watching the other ship as she drew closer.

"Do they want to,...to...fight?" Ariel shuddered, leaning closer to Eric.

By this time, the Briton was close off their port quarter, approaching swiftly but clearly with care so as not to hazard the American, or else to steal her wind.

"No...No. I donít think so. I think...I think...he wants to... race!" Daniel exclaimed as he hurried back to the quarterdeck. "Captain! Heís challenging us to a race, Iím sure of it!" Eric and Ariel heard, as Daniel charged to the captain behind them.

"A Race?!" Arielís face brightened with excitement as she looked up at Eric.

Truxton turned to the Briton, gazing through his glass. The Britisher came close along the port quarter until her captain, standing just abaft her starboard bow, called across in as loud and forceful a voice as he could master.

"Good Morning Sir, it seems we have the same destination." Even with all his effort, his voice still fell was faint in the wind.

"Maybe!," Truxton called in reply, "if youíre making for that isle ahead."

"Indeed, I am Sir! Imagine this, Godís fine morning and two handsome cruisers here, side by side, making swift for the same port. Twould be a pity were the one to arrive there less swift and surely handled than the other, wouldnít you say!"

"Aye! Am I to understand a challenge is being offered?" Truxton replied.

"Why yes Captain!"

"Arrogant fool!" Truxton remarked to Stone, whose attention now was directed solely on Constellationís hands. "Who is it there then?" he called.

"Captain Copeland, of His Majestyís Ship Endymion, at your service sir!"

"Well then,...you have a race! Good luck, Captain Copeland, youíll need it!"

Truxton turned to the Lieutenant "Lay on the canvas, Mr. Stone"


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